So, today was the Washington State primary. If you've been watching election coverage on the cable tv networks, you might not have even noticed, since they've been focused exclusively on Wisconsin. This is not that surprising, given that we already had the Washington State caucus a week and a half ago, on February 9th. For the Democrats, the caucus selected all the delegates, so today's vote is just a popularity contest, more or less. For the Republicans, it's a bit more important, given that half their delegates (49%) come from the caucus (which Huckabee probably won, but which malfesance on the part of state Republican officials announced as a McCain win without actually counting all the votes) while the remaining half (51%) was up for grabs today.
Here in Kent there were no ballot initiatives (Tim Eyman, the Deadbeat King, seems to have given this election a miss, probably waiting to strike again in the fall), no local elections, no state offices up for grabs, so as a result turnout was low. Voting around 12.30 or 1pm today I was voter number 23 at Kent Commons, our local voting place (Janice having been #21). By contrast, in the caucus I attended our group alone numbered sixty-nine people, and we were only one small part of the whole crowd. In the first round, we broke down as 42 for Obama, 20 for Clinton, and 7 undecided; by the end of the event we were 47 for Obama and 22 for Clinton, which came out as 7 Obama delegates and 3 Clinton delegates.
One interesting feature of the primary is that the ballot and voter's pamphlet had been drawn up so long ago that it still included a lot of the minor candidates who have since dropped out. On the Democratic side this included figures such as Biden, Dodd, and Kucinich -- good men who serve their country better right where they are in the House and Senate. John Edwards, who was actually my candidate both in '04 and again this time until he dropped out; I view his defeat by Kerry last time around as a sign that in primaries money trumps ideas, just as Kerry's defeat of Dean showed how money trumps energy and enthusiasm. Richardson, who's been running for Vice President all along and who might get it yet if Clinton winds up being the nominee. And of course the two it's come down to, Obama (the current front-runner) and Clinton (who'll certainly stay in the race all the way to the convention).
On the Republican side, it's more like a waxwork of horrors, with McCain the best of a bad lot. Huckabee is genuinely likable and has an appealing self-depreciatory sense of humor, but he was a rotten governor* with an appalling record on pardons and accepting bribes, and his scheme to replace the income tax with a sales tax would roll us back to the bad old days of Wm. McKinley. In any case, he too has been running for vice president since day one and is now closer to it than ever before (particularly since McCain, who's unlikely to survive a first term at his age, needs a young, conservative, charismatic VP candidate running beside him). Then there's Nixon crony Fred Thompson, who promised to spend lots more on the military while cutting taxes so there'd be far less money available to spend; Duncan Hunter, a racist who warns against the Yellow Peril and wants to build a new Berlin Wall to keep the Mexicans out; Giuliani (a.k.a. Mr. Torture); Romney, the Empty Suit That Walks Like A Man, who ran as Bob Dole the IInd, willing to promise anything to anybody if only they'd vote for him; and Alan Keyes, the anti-Obama, who's never held elective office and who promises to impeach and remove all judges who don't hand down rulings in accord with his (Keyes') religion. In a class by himself is Ron Paul, who's not actually a Republican at all but a Libertarian, which in itself disqualifies him from holding high public office.** I have to admit, though, that it was a hoot watching him at the various debates, yanking the other candidates' chains with his dissents against the war and most of the rest of the current administration's policies.
So. It's not over yet, but it's beginning to look like we have our candidates. In any case, the choices are now becoming few. I'll be curious to see if there's a third-party run by Evangelicals or if they'll give Mr. McCain a tepid nod and just stay at home come the fall election.
*by contrast, Bill Clinton was one of the best governors Arkansas ever had --- far better as a governor and Attorney General than as a president, in fact.
**not to mention that he's an isolationist --again, rolling back things to before the days of the Roosevelt-Taft-Wilson revolution -- as well as a tax nut, supports States' Rights, and is on the record praising a Klu Klux Klan member running for office in Louisiana.
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